One of the Chardon Hilltoppers football team’s biggest goals, aside from repeating as state champions, was to stay undefeated at home. It did just that last Friday evening as Chardon won a 63-7 contest over Streetsboro in the Division III, Region 9 regional quarterfinals at Chardon Memorial Field.
Chardon set another school record by going 7-0 at home this year.
“It means a legacy for our seniors,” said coach Mitch Hewitt. “It means something that no one can take away. They earned every one of those victories with blood sweat and tears and it was no easy feat because we don’t play an easy schedule. To accomplish what they’ve accomplished is even more impressive.”
It marked the 21st straight home victory for the Hilltoppers. The last time Chardon lost a home contest was in the 2018 postseason when Akron East defeated them in the first round.
The last time the Hilltoppers (12-0) played Streetsboro was in the second round of the 2019 playoffs and they handily won that game 35-0.
Chardon got off to a quick start as junior quarterback Alex Henry found the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown run to go up 7-0 in the first quarter.
The Hilltoppers erupted in the second quarter beginning with another touchdown run by Henry, this time from 10 yards out to make it a 14-0 lead. Chardon’s specials teams unit then delivered as senior defensive end Alex McDonald blocked a Rockets’ punt attempt and Chardon recovered the ball inside the Streetsboro 20.
“Our punt blocking unit was fairly frustrating early on in the season but they’ve emerged in the second half which is perfect timing,” noted the 11-year coach. “They’ve blocked a few punts recently, they’ve gotten some good return yards so in general we’re very pleased with that.”
Chardon senior tailback Ryan Petersen extended the lead to 21-0 on a touchdown run. The Hilltoppers’ special teams continued dominating on the ensuing kickoff as senior kicker Nathan Tager tried a pooch kick and sophomore defensive back Will Francis recovered on the Rockets’ 36.
Senior fullback Sean Carr opened Chardon’s lead to 28-0 on a 19-yard touchdown run and the Hilltoppers then recovered a Streetsboro fumble on the next kickoff. Having another short field, Chardon opened its lead up to 35-0 on another touchdown run by Alex Henry.
It’s been only two postseason games but Herny has not let the bright lights of Division III playoff football overwhelm him.
“Alex’s record speaks for itself,” noted Hewitt. “He’sm 12-0 and rushing for over a 100 yards each of the last few games. He’s throwing timely passes. The stage isn’t too bright for him. Sometimes you worry about things but he’s surviving in the enivornment and keeping his helmet on.”
By the time the second quarter ended, the Hilltoppers scored 42 points to sit on a 49-0 advantage by the break and trigger the running clock. It marked a season-high in points scored during a single quarter.
“We created turnovers in the kicking game” Hewitt said. “When you give us a short field at home and in a playoff atmosphere it’s hard to overcome that if you’re the opponent.”
Having scored 56 points against West Geauga the week before, the Rockets’ offense was stifled by Chardon’s defense managing just 123 yards of total offense and one touchdown.
It marked the first time the Hilltoppers scored more than 60 points in a game since defeating Western Reserve Conference rival Madison 63-14 in the 2016 season.
“We’re healthy and we’re fairly physical,” explained Hewitt. “Our kids believe in what we’re doing so combine that with an undersized Streetsboro defense that had given up a bunch of points the week before. I think we felt confident.”
The Hilltoppers continue to dominate in practically all phases of the game. Having graduated a majority of their starters from the 2020 state title team, there was a lot of skepticism about whether the team could have the same success this year.
“It was just a collective feeling that when you graduate that much talent you’re not going to be as good,” noted Hewitt. “There was a little uncertainty when you replace that much in a public school. I think what these kids have done in some regard is more impressive given all of that.”
Chardon’s ground game was strong as 480 of its 526 yards of offense came via the run game. Henry led Chardon by recording 132 rushing yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 46 yards and Carr ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Chardon’s postseason journey continues when it travels to Arrowhead Stadium in Girard to face Canfield in the Division III, Region 9 regional semifinals on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.